How to Protect Large Gatherings from Paris-Style Terrorist Attacks Is Focus of CCICADA Workshop at MetLife Stadium

Security Officials Discuss How to Enhance Large Venue Security Using Randomization, Walkthrough Metal Detectors, Social Media and Other Tools

Three professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB and NHL) have mandated the use of walk-through metal detectors (also known as magnetometers) to enhance security at sports stadiums and arenas they oversee. Seen here are WTMDs in use by the Oakland Raiders. Photo credit: Oakland Raiders.

Three professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB and NHL) have mandated the use of walk-through metal detectors (also known as magnetometers) to enhance security at sports stadiums and arenas they oversee. Seen here are WTMDs in use by the Oakland Raiders. Photo credit: Oakland Raiders.

What can be done to enhance security for the many millions of fans who visit US sports stadiums and other large entertainment venues every year?

That question was at the heart of “A Conversation on Venue Security after Paris” held March 16, 2016, at MetLife Stadium. CCICADA, the homeland security research consortium, organized and led the event. It was hosted by Daniel DeLorenzi, MetLife Stadium director of security and safety.

Among the stadium-security topics discussed were the use of social media to monitor chatter, handheld portable x-ray machines, the integration of CCTV systems with intrusion detection systems, randomization of security protocols, and the use of walk-through metal detectors (WTMDs) in outdoor settings for which they were not designed.

The workshop was sparked by the Paris terrorist attacks on the Bataclan Concert Hall and the Stade de France in November 2015, which highlighted the vulnerability of large gathering places.

<a href="https://www.safetyact.gov/externalRes/refdoc/CCICADA%20BPATS.pdf">Download </a> CCICADA’s “Best Practices in Anti-Terrorism…Resource Guide.”

Download CCICADA’s “Best Practices in Anti-Terrorism…Resource Guide.”

Drawn by CCICADA’s national leadership in new technologies to enhance security at professional sports stadiums, venue security professionals gathered to learn how advanced security technologies can help defend against terrorist attacks. CCICADA’s “Best Practices in Anti-Terrorism Security Resource Guide” is already used as a reference by sports venues seeking federal SAFETY Act certification.

“We were not sure how much interest there would be in this ‘conversation,” said CCICADA Director Dr. Fred Roberts. “However, the response was enthusiastic.”

The invitation-only event was aimed at representatives of major sports stadiums, as well as representatives of malls, casinos, hotels, performing arts centers, and law enforcement. While the event focused on New Jersey and New York, the Cleveland Indians, a CCICADA partner, sent Jerry Crabb, their senior director of ballpark operations, all the way from Ohio for this half-day event.

“We created a lively discussion on what new technologies are coming down the line,” said CCICADA Assistant Director Dennis Egan.

Among the stadium-security topics discussed were the use of social media to monitor chatter, handheld portable x-ray machines, the integration of CCTV systems with intrusion detection systems, randomization of security protocols, and the use of walk-through metal detectors (WTMDs) in outdoor settings for which they were not designed.

Workshop participants engage in a lively discussion of strategies and technologies that can make stadiums more secure from terrorist attacks. Photo credit: James Wojtowicz

Workshop participants engage in a lively discussion of strategies and technologies that can make stadiums more secure from terrorist attacks. Photo credit: James Wojtowicz

A participant from the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said law enforcement should be involved in developing protocols for the implementation of new technologies.

CCICADA postdoctoral associate Christie Nelson reviewed the center’s experiments with walkthrough metal detectors (WTMDs) and how they work in practice at stadiums and arenas. This led to an animated discussion about the effect on WTMD operations of security and sensitivity settings, of weather and environmental conditions, and even the speed and gait of patrons being screened.

All agreed that updated standards for WTMDs are needed. CCICADA researcher Nelson and Research Director Dr. Paul Kantor will be guest researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology to work on this problem.

(Top) Students and their mentor Christie Nelson (left) assemble a walkthrough metal detector outside CCICADA’s offices at Rutgers University. (Bottom) An undergraduate research student tapes an object to his leg in preparation for a test of the walkthrough metal detector. Photo credit: James Wojtowicz, CCICADA

(Top) Students and their mentor Christie Nelson (left) assemble a walkthrough metal detector outside CCICADA’s offices at Rutgers University. (Bottom) An undergraduate research student tapes an object to his leg in preparation for a test of the walkthrough metal detector. Photo credit: James Wojtowicz, CCICADA

As Dr. Michael Tobia, a science and technology program expert with the US Department of Homeland Security, put it: “Guidance on use of walkthroughs was written in the 1970s. Since then, metals in guns have changed.”

On the market today are guns made of plastic that shoot real bullets and are shaped like cell phones or even ball point pens to better conceal them.

The best security may involve randomness. Changing security protocols on a random schedule makes them less predictable. After the Paris attacks, venue security leaders specifically asked CCICADA to share their current research on randomization. Participants at the MetLife event discussed changing the sensitivity of walk-throughs at random times, randomly choosing patrons for secondary screening, and even randomly changing the type of secondary screening performed.

“Discussion of randomization also emphasized that random selection is almost the opposite of profiling,” CCICADA’s Egan said.

One participant from a Major League Baseball stadium said his security team rotates staff assignments. He said the stadium also changes the number of entrances at gates and gate configurations, and will even sometimes switch the location of WTMDs.

Professional sports leagues mandating the use of WTMDs at their stadiums and arenas include the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

Common sense dictates that how much you screen may depend on the type of crowd you have. As one participant from an NHL venue observed: “Disney On Ice is different than (a hip hop) crowd – you need to assess your patrons when deciding on the appropriate level of screening.” However, venues need to be careful not to engage in profiling by treating different groups of patrons substantially differently.
“The role of behavioral sciences is also growing in venue security,” said Kantor, CCICADA’s research director. He led a discussion on deception detection, micro-expressions, and technologies that might help to detect behavioral anomalies. Kantor noted that suspicious behavior might someday be detected through the use of mathematical algorithms. “But for now,” he said, “no technology can beat the intuitions of a human observer who has been properly trained to spot suspicious behavior.”

Jim Wojtowicz, CCICADA’s managing director, called on his criminal justice background to point out that “studies show that detecting deception is tricky, especially since we are dealing with a different kind of actor.” On the other hand, Michael Young, retired from the Secret Service and US Transportation Security Administration, pointed out that “physiological indicators such as twitching eyes and pulsing veins do tell us something, as the Israelis have shown us over the years.”

Some expect driverless cars, such as the one seen here, to become nearly ubiquitous by 2025. Photo credit: Automobile Italia

Some expect driverless cars, such as the one seen here, to become nearly ubiquitous by 2025. Photo credit: Automobile Italia

In summarizing the discussion, Kantor said workshop participants agreed that engaging with a patron who behaves suspiciously “is most effective if it is a conversation rather than a confrontation: You get more information out of casual/friendly interactions with people.”

The focus of the final workshop session was staffing and training. Tobia of the DHS pointed out that training cannot be informal: “You need a curriculum; you need a lesson plan; you need to put effort into training and have a paper trail to demonstrate the work you put in. Can you prove it to me? You need metrics.”  CCICADA is in the process of developing training programs for stadium security.

“One key factor in designing training programs,” said Egan, “is that modern law enforcement is building on more and more technical tools.” Workshop participants stressed the need to understand data, trends, probability, and uncertainty – all reflecting the increased sophistication of modern law enforcement.

One of the highlights of CCICADA’s work in venue security is its long-term vision. DHS Science Advisor Mitchell Erickson spoke about the venue security implications of new and emerging technologies like driverless cars, drones, futuristic communication, cyber-physical systems (the “Internet of Things”), social media, robots, and artificial neural networks.

Erickson said the venue security community, as it plans for a very different world, will have to address the many issues posed by these technologies.

A follow-up survey of participants drew a very positive response and the suggestion that such “conversations” should be repeated regularly.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*